Have you heard the term dysesthesia? If you are a family caregiver to an older adult with multiple sclerosis (MS), it’s a term you need to know. It is a medical symptom that refers to one of the many symptoms that MS patients may experience.
Dysesthesia is the word used to describe pain caused by MS. It happens because of nerve damage. The word literally means “abnormal sensation.” The pain can be severe and last for a long time. It may even prevent your aging relative from enjoying their regular activities.
The pain happens when the brain receives confused messages from damaged nerves. Unable to decipher them, the brain selects a familiar sensation, like pain, and signals the body to feel that. Though uncomfortable, dysesthesia is not a sign that tissues are damaged. Usually, the tissues that are feeling pain are perfectly normal and healthy. However, if the person fails to use that part of the body for a long time because of the pain, the tissues may suffer damage.
What Does Dysesthesia Feel Like?
Not all people with MS experience dysesthesia in the same way. It is described as a range of sensations, including:
- Burning that feels like a sunburn but could also feel like an electrical shock.
- A crawling feeling under the skin.
- A tight feeling, such as a squeezing feeling around the torso. This is often called an “MS hug.”
- Radiating pain.
- Pins and needles.
- Pain that is sharp and stabbing.
- Irritation or pain from even a gentle touch, such as clothing touching the skin.
Coping with Dysesthesia
The first step in dealing with dysesthesia is to report the symptoms to the elder adult’s doctor. The doctor may prescribe medications, such as antidepressants that alter the way the body reacts to pain or anticonvulsants to calm the nerves.
In addition to taking medications, some other things that can be done at home are:
- Use heat to ease pain, such as warm compresses or a heating pad.
- Use pressurized clothing, like socks and gloves.
- Make sure the senior gets enough sleep.
- Ensure the elderly adult stays hydrated.
Home health care can assist older adults who experience MS pain. A home health care provider can prepare and apply a warm compress or help the senior get situated with a heating pad. Home health care providers can also help the older adult to put on pressurized clothing, which can be difficult to do if their grip strength is compromised due to arthritis or other conditions. If your aging relative struggles to drink enough liquids during the day, a home health care provider can fill a water bottle and encourage the senior to drink from it throughout the day.